Are You Motivated By Ego?

If you are a performer it’s key to understand why you choose to compete. If you are managing or coaching performers it’s even more important to understand what motivates them in order to lead effectively. Research has identified two primary motivations for individuals who enter into the world of competition. They are ego and mastery.

Performers who are motivated by ego have to win in order to feel good about themselves. They derive a significant portion of their identify by feeling superior through beating others. This is their primary driver. If they lose it is not just about a game, earnings report, business takeover or election. Losing challenges their identity and self-esteem.

As the name suggests, performers who are motived by mastery practice and compete in order to master their craft. They also enjoy winning, but it is not the primary reason they compete. Their primary source of satisfaction is improvement, progress and becoming better each day. They are often astute students of the history of their business, sport or other performance oriented field. Regardless of the outcome, they are able to feel good about themselves if they perform well.

Performers who are too highly motivated by ego are at risk for a host of issues. They are the athletes who complain when they do not get enough recognition (as judged by them), playing time or contribution in a particular game plan. They lose their temper and cause penalties when challenged and things do not go well. They often are not true team players.  In the business world, they are the executives who compare their salaries to others, need to have the best office and often feel entitled to more–regardless of what they currently have. They are often the ones who cross ethical and legal boundaries. In the worst cases, they bring down entire companies.

Performers who are too highly motivated by mastery can get caught up in the mechanics of their craft and fail to demonstrate the fire necessary to compete at the highest level.  They can be too analytical and have trouble developing the necessary competitive instinct. Their pursuit of perfection can become an obsession. They often fail to understand that excellence is achievable and perfection is not.

As a performer, do you need more or less of the mastery or ego style? As someone who leads performers, how will you think differently about your coaching, management or leadership of your stars if you understand their motivational style?

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